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In the press coverage attending the death and memorial services for Senator Edward Moore Kennedy, "the Lion of the Senate," comes the inevitable question when a person of such importance is no longer there to emulate, to quote, to rail against for the myriad reasons that animate friends and foes, what will become of what he stood for, will Liberalism die with him? This is the mindless clatter published in the Washington Post this Saturday morning of Ted Kennedy's funeral day. What inane children are these editors and publishers that they might think that a political movement begun with Jefferson, continued with the Progressive Movement, bearing fruit under Franklin Roosevelt and carried forward by John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and even Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton would or could possibly evaporate because of the death of one man!

I am amazed that a sentient individual would pose a question about Kennedy's role with such blatant disregard for logic as this
Kennedy's death this week has left Democrats debating just what made him so successful -- his public embrace of liberalism or his political skill and the relationships he built with opposition lawmakers -- and about whether his approach might be translated to help Democrats regain their footing.
Do they really think that it is an either/or situation? Kennedy was all of these things and more. False dichotomies are for school boys, not an educated public. But of course, the Post is part of the problem of educating the public, isn't it.

With the hate machine run by O'Rielly, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Beck jumping all over Chapaquiddick as if Teddy Kennedy were still wet from his swim from the scene of the accident on Chapaquiddick Bridge, as if his contrition were not enough, and as if every Christian in the nation bore Ted Kennedy a grudge and no forgiveness for his youthful errors, Kennedy emerges at his death as a human being, just a human being from a family whose pater familias schooled his children to take up public service for the sake of people who are unable or unwilling to do it themselves. Ted was different because he knew that he must learn to be good. He did not seek greatness ... and indeed he was not great ... except that he combined charm with strong convictions about the role of government "for the people."

Kennedy, as his niece remembered on Friday at a memorial, loved history and was one of the fortunate many who could see a free-will continuity between the past and the future. He acted in the Senate as a forward thinking person with respect to conduct as a Senator and with respect to policy. Yes, of course, he had to compromise from time to time, but he was sufficiently the politician that he made the effort of compromise work for him and his ideals, too.

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Liberalism and the progressive spirit will live. Make no mistake about that, nor should you wonder about the leadership of the movement. Kennedy did not lead, per se. He was an exemplar and a person of sufficient thoughtfulness that people listened. There are many more like him: Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, Sherrod Brown for three.

There are mighty forces arrayed against liberalism because to them liberalism is undisciplined. They are wrong. Liberalism is highly disciplined because it takes an extraordinary effort to think beyond one's own private benefit and need. Conservatives do not understand this, because it is they who are fundamentally undisciplined, and doubtless it is this very conditions that gives rise to their incessant fear of government. As the stern father imagery dominates the conservative psyche so the reaction is always fear of the father. Liberals don't have this problem ... not that their fathers did not know how to discipline, but because they did know how and understood that beating children into obedience is futile.

But private conservativism undergirds the quest for domination through corporate agencies where one does not have liability for every action, particularly for spoliation of the commons. If modern corporations' liabilities were not limited to their goods, services, and direct heelmarks on the terrain of our commonwealth, you would see a different kind of nation. We are laboring under a decision of law wherein corporations are seen as individuals with rights, but nothing said about their responsibilities to truth and to public welfare. The Post represents corporations ... it IS a corporation, in fact ... and its willingness to plant seeds of doubt among grieving liberals is dastardly and unworthy of the traditions of this and other national newspapers. They should be ashamed! But, you know, they are not, and so fight we must for every scrap of honesty and truth.

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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